On Jan. 18, 2017, Tyler Perry was honored as Favorite Humanitarian at the People's Choice Awards in Los Angeles.
Perry's nonprofit, the Perry Foundation, has funneled millions of dollars toward groups like Charity Water and Feeding America as well as taken aim at ending homelessness and supporting civil rights issues.
On stage accepting the honor, Perry began his speech on a somewhat peculiar topic: the safety regulations of the building he was standing in.
It's standard the facility abides by important rules, Perry noted, like having a sprinkler system in place and fire extinguishers at hand, should they be needed. But he also mentioned what would happen if, suddenly, the lights were to go out.
"If the lights go out in this building right now, there are these little lights — you see them on the wall, they have back-up batteries in them," Perry explained. "And what will happen is, it will light your way out of the darkness."
Those battery-powered lights, he argued, can teach us an important life lesson.
Perry's speech focused on becoming a positive force for good in other people's lives when they need it most.
“What I have found, and what’s been so important to me right now, is that — as I look at the state of the world and the state of our country and everything that is going on, it is so important that we know that no matter how dark it gets, we all have to be light for each other."
Perry continued (emphasis added):
"You turn on your phone, you turn on your television, you’re met with darkness, negativity, death, destruction, terrorism, murder, hate, racism. You know, you don’t even need to search for it, because it’s searching for you. It can find you. It’s right there beside you; it’s in your pocket. You have to be careful — when you have things that close to your pocket that they don’t seep into your heart.
You see, if you keep taking it in, it can consume you; it can make you become cynical and jaded and remove you from all of the struggles of our brothers and sisters and look at them and think, "Well, it’s just another person going through.' But what is so important that we all understand is no matter what everybody's going through, anybody’s going through, we’re all going through it together."
Perry's speech, given just two days before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, was especially relevant.
For plenty of people tuning in, there are many questions and even more anxieties about what the future holds. A divisive, controversial election fueled by bigotry and scapegoating lead to a bitter presidential transition, and several marginalized groups are feeling more scared than ever before thinking about what comes after Jan. 20, 2017.
Perry's speech illustrated the power of thinking selflessly, especially in times like these.
There are many ways to turn that fear of the dark into something positive: volunteer, protest, become an ally, stay engaged, donate to causes you believe in, and — as Perry encouraged — be a guiding light when it's needed most.
"If the power’s going out in your life or in somebody’s life around [you], and they don’t know if they can find their way out, be that light for them," Perry concluded. "Let your light shine before them."